I love peaches. In fact, they’re my favorite fruit. Growing up, we had a peach tree at my parents’ house with sweet juicy peaches to die for. When I moved to the U.S. as an adult, I was excited to see beautiful peaches in grocery stores; I was even more excited about seeing them in the winter. And it wasn’t only peaches. Watermelons in December? That was unheard of in Jordan where I grew up. We only had watermelons in the summer. Fresh pineapples? We rarely had those. They’re grown too far away and too expensive to export. Initially, I thought that having almost all kinds of produce all year long was a blessing. But then I bit into one of those winter peaches. Nine times out of ten, their taste and texture were disappointing.
As I became more familiar with food and produce sources in the U.S., I found out about farmers markets, local markets, local nurseries, and pick-your-own farms. And in a local nursery selling peppers, tomatoes, and herbs for home gardens, I found the peaches I was craving, locally grown, right here in Virginia. Since then, I only buy peaches from local farms—I even found delicious, locally grown ones when visiting family in Boston.
Eating local is better for your health and the environment. With local foods, there’s no long-distance traveling, freezing, or refrigeration, saving money and energy. Local is almost always associated with seasonal. You’re eating fruits and veggies picked at the peak of their freshness and nutrient content.
I think local produce also tastes better. Fruits and veggies are of no use if you don’t eat them! When they taste good—because they weren’t refrigerated for weeks or picked based on a shipping schedule instead of optimal ripeness—they surely taste much better. Personally, I like supporting local and small businesses, and that extends to farms.
While local and seasonal foods feels so fresh and rejuvenating, in the real world, it’s not always practical. Some have gone exclusively local and seasonal and wrote books about their experience. It’s easier in parts of the country than others, and in the summer than the winter. Farmers markets are not available all year long, and if I had to pick my own fruits, I’ll probably go for weeks without any. Having young children at home adds another challenge. While they love growing and picking their own produce and enjoy farmers markets and local farms, eating kale all fall and forgoing bananas is more than my kids can handle.
Can’t eat local all year long? Don’t be discouraged; try your best. In Virginia, at different times during the year, we have apples, berries, peaches, pumpkins, squashes and herbs. Some grocery stores carry them, making it easier for consumers. Pick-your-own farms usually have ready-to-buy when you don’t have a day to spend on the farm. And you can often freeze, can, or pickle those local seasonal varieties to enjoy later on.
I’m sharing this recipe using local apples from Cox Farms, a yearly fall family fun destination for locals in Northern Virginia. After the hayride, corn maze, and hay slides, the kids and I stopped at the festival market and found apples, local honey, fruit preserves, fruit butters, and pickled fruits. You can read my blog post from last year on pumpkin butter and ways to use it.
Recipe by Nour Zibdeh, MS, RD
3 cups whole wheat flour
½ cup granulated sugar
½ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
½ cup coconut oil
2 tsp. vanilla extract
3 apples, shredded with their juice
1 summer zucchini, shredded with their juice
1½ cup walnuts, finely chopped in processor
½ cup plain yogurt
- Grease a 13″x9″ baking pan. Set aside. Heat the oven to 350°.
- In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Make a well in center of the dry mixture.
- In another bowl, whisk the eggs. Mix in coconut oil and vanilla extract. Stir in apples, zucchini and yogurt.
- Fold egg mixture into flour mixture until moistened. The batter will be stiff. Spread in prepared baking pan.
- Bake for 60 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool in a pan on a wire for an hour.